Best to prune forsythia right after blossoms fade

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Q. A forsythia in my front garden has not been pruned at all in the past few years. It is overgrown, congested, and unshapely. I’m keen to get it tidied up, but wanted to make sure it is all right to prune it now.

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A. The problem with pruning a forsythia now is that the pruning will remove stems that would otherwise bloom in early spring. The usual time for pruning forsythia (and other spring-flowering shrubs) is right after the blossoms fade. There is the option also of pruning while gathering flower-laden stems for the house.

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When you prune this shrub, first remove damaged and dead growth. Then take out at their point or origin stems heading in toward the centre of the shrub and those in awkward positions. Thin out congested growth to allow sunlight penetration and free circulation of air through the shrub. Shorten overlong growth. Step back often through the pruning process, to assess the shape you are creating.

Q. My kale plants survived the pre-Christmas snow and freezing temperatures, and I look forward to harvesting their nutritious greens again through early spring. My problem is the space they take as they expand into flowering mode, just when I need that space to make new, spring vegetable plantings. Is there any reason to keep the plants in the garden as spring arrives?

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A. Leaving kale to bloom, at least for a while, brings benefits to a garden and the environment. The flowers are an important food source for bees and other pollinators and for other beneficial insects that help to control pests in our gardens. Allowing the plants time to bloom can also almost guarantee a few seeds will develop and be dispersed to germinate the following spring to produce extra-strong and productive plants.

Most gardens these days have space issues. Planting kale along a plot edge makes it as simple as possible to fit spring plantings into the plot.

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